Obama nominates Dartmouth College president—an unconventional pick—to head World Bank

As U.S. President Barack Obama mused over who to put forward as the next head of the World Bank—an international financial institution where the U.S. is the largest shareholder—analysts and commentators tossed up predictions. Many assumed Obama would take the traditional route and opt for a former diplomat or a seasoned economist like Jeffrey Sachs. Others thought it would be Hillary Clinton. Few thought it would be Jim Yong Kim, President of Dartmouth College, an Ivy League school in Hanover, New Hampshire.

But that’s who it is.

The selection of the Korean-born health expert has been met with some surprise. Britain’s Guardian newspaper called Kim a “virtual unknown,” while the Globe and Mail called it an “odd pick.”

Analysts are saying that Obama has faced unprecedented pressure from developing countries with shares in the World Bank over the selection process of a new president. Obama’s hope is that, in choosing a less conventional candidate with experience in health-related international aid work and time at the World Health Organization, Kim can draw wide support.

“The president was looking for a candidate who could command broad support across the world,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told Reuters. “That’s very important, because we don’t make this decision alone.”

Since the World Bank was created at the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944, the U.S. has selected the organization’s president. But in 2009, an accord was struck to make the selection process more open and transparent. Now, countries like Brazil, China, Russia and India want to have a larger say in who leads the World Bank. Kim faces competition from fellow nominees Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Finance Minister of Nigeria, and Jose Antonio Ocampo, the former Colombian finance minister.

Even so, as always in the past, the U.S. nominee is expected to carry the day.

 




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